UNC clinches ACC Coastal Division and spoils Beamer’s home finale in overtime

2 Comments

It looked as though No. 17 North Carolina (10-1, 7-0 ACC) was well on its way to wrapping up the ACC Coastal Division in Blacksburg, but sometimes winning in Lane Stadium against the Virginia Tech Hokies (5-6, 4-3 ACC) is never as easy as it seems. The Tar Heels gave up two late fourth quarter touchdowns to the Hokies and would need to win it in overtime. Ryan Switzer caught an 18-yard touchdown from Marquise Williams on UNC’s possession of overtime to capture the win and the ACC Coastal Division championship.

Down 24-10 with just under five minutes to play, Virginia Tech quickly moved down the field after starting at their 37-yard line. Michael Brewer‘s 25-yard pass to Sam Rogers got the Hokies in UNC territory and a 26-yard pass to Isaiah Ford two plays later took them to the 11. Bucky Hodges would haul in an eight-yard pass on a fourth down from the eight-yard line for a touchdown to cut the UNC lead to one. UNC fumbled away the football on the ensuing drive, and Brewer again found Ford for a big play a few plays later. A short touchdown pass to Ford tied the game at 24-24 with 1:07 to play. The game would go to overtime, thanks in part to a bizarre timeout called by Larry Fedora on the UNC sideline.

North Carolina still has one more game to play before getting set to take on Clemson in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte in two weeks. UNC visits North Carolina State in Raleigh next week to conclude the regular season. North Carolina can keep some outside playoff hopes alive with a win next week.

The Tar Heels have never played for the ACC Championship. Since the championship game was introduced by the ACC in 2005, only Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke have represented the Coastal Division in the championship game. Virgina Tech was the last Coastal team to win the ACC when it topped Florida State in 2010. Coastal champs are 3-11 in the title game, with Clemson or Florida State winning each of the past four seasons (Florida State has won the last three).

Of course, the loss also carries a bit of an additional sour note for Virginia Tech. This was the last home game to be coached by longtime Hokies head coach Frank Beamer. Beamer announced his retirement that will be effective at the end of the season. Beamer’s Hokies now must win next week’s game against Virginia in order to keep Virginia Tech’s season going. Virginia Tech needs one more win to become bowl eligible this season. Beamer has taken Virginia Tech to the postseason every year since 1993.

Conference USA releases 2018 schedule

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Conference USA released its 2018 schedule on Tuesday, confirming that once again the league will play football this fall.

The league slate kicks off Sept. 8 with FIU’s visit to Old Dominion, while the first game involving a C-USA team is set for Aug. 25, when Rice hosts Prairie View A&M. Conference games are scattered throughout the month of September, with the first full Saturday slate coming on Oct. 6 with Old Dominion at Florida Atlantic, UAB at Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee at Marshall, North Texas at UTEP and UTSA at Rice.

While the MAC has opted for a full embrace of midweek football, Conference USA has gone in the exact opposite direction. Not one C-USA game is scheduled as of today for a weeknight — Thursday or Friday included — and only one game will be played on a day other than Saturday, a Friday, Aug. 31 visit to Wisconsin by Western Kentucky.

The most-anticipated non-conference games involving C-USA teams are Florida Atlantic’s opener at Oklahoma and on Sept. 1 and the Owls’ Sept. 22 visit to reigning American and Peach Bowl champion UCF. North Texas also has two shots to win nationwide respect for the league in its opener against SMU on Sept. 1 in Denton and a Sept. 15 visit to retooling Arkansas.

The highlight of the league schedule comes on Nov. 17 with a rematch of the 2017 title game when Florida Atlantic visits North Texas. The Owls won both meetings last season by a combined score of 110-48.

The 14th C-USA Championship will be held on Dec. 1 at the home of the division winner with the best conference record. FAU will look to become the second straight back-to-back C-USA champion, joining Western Kentucky in 2015-16.

Former LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada reportedly lands at Maryland

Getty Images
1 Comment

It’s good to be Matt Canada.

He parachuted into Baton Rouge for a year, got paid a bunch of money, then got paid even more money to leave. And now he’s set to get paid from another school.

According to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Canada is set to join the Maryland staff as offensive coordinator. Rittenberg notes that Canada signed a multi-year agreement with the Terps, though salary terms were not revealed. Walt Bell, who left to become the offensive coordinator at Florida State, made $500,000 in 2017, according to USA Today.

Maryland will be Canada’s seventh school to call plays for in this decade alone. He spent 2010 (and three years before that) at Indiana, then moved to Northern Illinois in 2011. He parlayed that into one season at Wisconsin, three at NC State, and then one season stints at Pittsburgh, LSU and now Maryland.

Report: Oklahoma State signs 27-year-old Australian punter

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Australian punters are the hot new commodity in college football, and word has made it back to the Land Down Under: punt the ball far and high enough and you, too, can receive a full scholarship to an American university.

According to the Latrobe Valley Express — which you now is legit, because its header as of press time already reads Wednesday, January 24 — 27-year-old Australian punter Tom Hutton has signed with Oklahoma State. Hutton hails from Newborough, Australia, about a two hour ride from Melbourne, and in December attended a training session at Prokick Australia.

“I was told about [American football] a few years ago so I thought ‘I’ll probably be too old for it now’, thinking that it was like Aussie Rules and that if you were over 21 then you had no chance,” Hutton told the paper. “But then I saw a few older blokes getting scholarships so I thought I may as well give it a go.”

Prokick Australia claims the last five Ray Guy Award winners as alums, including 2017 victor Michael Dickson of Texas. Oklahoma State saw his ability up close, as Dickson punted 11 times for a 50.9-yard average in October, nearly booting his way to victory in a 13-10 Cowboys overtime victory. “Their punter is — did he win the Ray Guy Award last year?” Mike Gundy said after that game. “He should have won it. He changed the field on us. I don’t know what the yardage is, I just know that every time we go a little bit of field position, he changed the field … he was fantastic for them.”

The story of how Hutton was approved for an Oklahoma State offer doesn’t go into details, but Hutton’s recollection of how Hutton, who works overnights at a paper mill in addition to playing Aussie rules football in the Mid Gippsland Football League, received the offer is perfect.

“I woke up after night shift on two hours sleep and this person said ‘we know where you’re going, you’re going to Oklahoma State and we’ve got the coach on the phone,'” he said. “I thought ‘Jesus Christ, can you give me half an hour? I need to have a shower and actually wake up and make sure this is not a dream.'”

According to the Oklahoma State blog Pistols Firing, Hutton will arrive in Stillwater in July and have four years of eligibility.

Arkansas adds TCU signee who signed with New York Yankees

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Austin Aune‘s circuitous sports journey, one which Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden would approve, has taken its next stop in Fayetteville.

According to 247Sports.com, Aune has joined the Arkansas football program and is enrolled in classes at the university.  At least initially, the quarterback will be a part of the Razorbacks as a walk-on; it’s expected he’ll take the field with the rest of his new teammates when spring practice kicks off month after next.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Aune had also considered TCU and North Texas before the SEC’s mystique proved to be too much.

“The allure of the SEC and the SEC West and Chad [Morris] and Coach [Joe] Craddock, and everybody being on the same page up there as far as the opportunity goes,” the player’s father, Greg Aune, told the Democrat-Gazette. “He likes their system. It’s a fast-paced system, wide-open system. That’s what he played in high school. It’s a pass-oriented offense. He’s a read-run oriented guy, so that’s a lot of what those guys do.”

The fact that Aune considered TCU as a potential landing spot before settling on Morris and UA shouldn’t come as a surprise as he actually signed with the Horned Frogs back in 2012.  However, he was drafted by the New York Yankees that same year and, after signing a contract that included a $1 million signing bonus, embarked on what turned out to be a six-year career in the minor leagues.  Despite that financial commitment, Aune never made it past Single-A ball.